Meeting documents

SWT Community Scrutiny Committee
Wednesday, 30th November, 2022 6.15 pm

Venue: The John Meikle Room - The Deane House. View directions

Contact: Sam Murrell, Email: and Marcus Prouse, Email: 

Webcast: View the webcast

No. Item



    To receive any apologies for absence.


    Additional documents:


    Cllr Andy Milne, Cllr Steve Griffiths, Cllr Richard Lees, Cllr Andy Pritchard (subs Cllr Loretta Whetlor) joined via zoom and Cllr Martin Peters.


    The Chair made the comment that it was shame that substitutions had not been found to fill the vacant seats for the meeting.



Minutes of the previous meeting of the Community Scrutiny Committee pdf icon PDF 279 KB


Declarations of Interest

    To receive and note any declarations of disclosable pecuniary or prejudicial or personal interests in respect of any matters included on the agenda for consideration at this meeting.


    (The personal interests of Councillors and Clerks of Somerset County Council, Town or Parish Councils and other Local Authorities will automatically be recorded in the minutes.)


    Additional documents:


    Members present at the meeting declared the following personal interests in their capacity as a Councillor or Clerk of a County, Town or Parish Council or any other Local Authority:-



    Minute No.

    Description of Interest


    Action Taken

    Cllr S Coles

    All Items

    SCC, Taunton Charter Trustee & Shadow Taunton Town


    Spoke and Voted

    Cllr T Deakin

    All Items

    SCC, Taunton Charter Trustee & Shadow Taunton Town


    Spoke and Voted

    Cllr D Johnson

    All Items

    SCC & Shadow Taunton Town


    Spoke and Voted

    Cllr L Lisgo

    All Items

    Taunton Charter Trustee & Shadow Taunton Town


    Spoke and Voted

    Cllr M Lithgow

    All Items



    Spoke and Voted

    Cllr J Lloyd

    All Items

    Wellington & Sampford Arundel


    Spoke and Voted

    Cllr D Mansell

    All Items



    Spoke and Voted

    Cllr R Tully

    All Items

    West Monkton


    Spoke and Voted

    Cllr L Whetlor

    All Items



    Spoke and Voted



Public Participation

    The Chair to advise the Committee of any items on which members of the public have requested to speak and advise those members of the public present of the details of the Council’s public participation scheme.

    For those members of the public who have submitted any questions or statements, please note, a three minute time limit applies to each speaker and you will be asked to speak before Councillors debate the issue.

    We are now live webcasting most of our committee meetings and you are welcome to view and listen to the discussion. The link to each webcast will be available on the meeting webpage, but you can also access them on the Somerset West and Taunton webcasting website.

    Additional documents:


    Two requests for Public Participation were brought to the committee from Mr Martyn and Mr Taylor on the subject of Blenheim Gardens Café, Minehead. Mr Martyn attended in person, whilst Mr Taylor asked that his written statement was read out by the clerk. Their submissions are below.


    1)    Mr Steve Martyn

    Why this is an issue for Community Scrutiny

    The future of Blenheim Gardens is an issue of significant public concern for the people of Minehead and it’s surrounding areas. Any decision to sell or lease all or part of the asset should involve consultation with the Minehead community. This did not happen. The Executive Cllrs decision to invite private investment is not something we would disagree with however we have raised real concerns about how the process of selection was handled and the lack of transparency in answering our questions. In the two years since the lease was decided lack of progress and actions by the applicant should by now be ringing alarm bells about their suitability and we strongly recommend that the lease is not signed while a full investigation is carried out.

    It came as somewhat of a surprise last week when Executive Cllr M Kravis who decided the lease 3/11/20 voted to support Minehead Town Council’s motion to take back control of Blenheim Gardens and cafe’. We recommend viewing this meeting which was digitally recorded 22/11/22

    The Jewel in The Crown

    • Blenheim Gardens Café falls within the Wellington Square conservation area of Minehead. Covenants protecting the gardens have been in place since 1911. These state that the gardens are a public park for the pleasure of the people of Minehead. No permanent buildings are allowed. The buildings that are there are of timber construction and include a band stand, café, shelter and toilets. Alcohol may not be consumed within the gardens and the gates are locked at dusk.

    The Café:

    • There had been a café in the gardens for 50 years, run by one family. Suzanne Dean was the last tenant who gave SW&T notice in 2018 following a rent increase which she said was unaffordable. There was great sadness when it closed particularly among young families with children and the elderly who used the café as a quiet and peaceful meeting place in contrast to the busy Avenue. The café has now been empty for 4 years and it’s condition has visibly deteriorated.

    In 2020 SW&T chose to go to tender

    • Executive Cllr M. Kravis
    • Five Expressions of interest
    • A 20 year lease? Why?
    • Applicant to repair building
    • Applicant to propose rent
    • We ask whether any of the applicants were known to the Executive Councillor before the tender?
    • Has the Executive Councillor had business dealings with any of the applicants before or after the tender?
    • Has the Executive Councillor rented or occupied premises owned by any of the applicants before or after the tender?
    • Did the Executive Cllr declare any prejudicial interests before conducting the tender?
    • Did the five applicants receive the same  ...  view the full minutes text for item 56.


Community Scrutiny Request/Recommendation Trackers pdf icon PDF 171 KB


Community Scrutiny Forward Plan pdf icon PDF 96 KB

    To receive items and review the Forward Plan.


    Additional documents:


    The Chair advised that due to the Minutes of all Council meetings having to be signed off at the last Full Council meeting on 28 March 2023, there would be no Community Scrutiny Meeting in March. It was likely therefore that there would be a lot of items brought forward for the two remaining meetings in January and February.


    Cllr Dawn Johnson requested that a report was brought to Community Scrutiny to update the Committee on the Canonsgrove Decant/ Rough Sleeping programme, and how this was progressing. Also to include any remedial works/costs that were required to restore the accommodation that had been vacated, and to talk about the future and next steps. It was agreed to add this to the February meeting.


    The Committee approved the Community Scrutiny Forward Plan


    Prop: Lloyd / Sec: Stock Williams (unanimous)




Executive and Full Council Forward Plans pdf icon PDF 112 KB


Housing Revenue Report - Financial Monitoring as at Quarter 2 (30 September 2022) pdf icon PDF 338 KB

    This matter is the responsibility of Executive Councillor Fran Smith, Housing.  


    Report Author: Kerry Prisco (Management Accounting and Reporting Lead).



    Additional documents:


    The report was introduced by PFH for Housing, Executive Cllr Francesca Smith.


    The report author Kerry Prisco made the following comments in support of her written submission.


    During the Qtr 1 report it was requested that where savings were identified, these were referenced in Qtr 2. These are indicated as follows:-


    ·       Para. 5.10 on capitalising material costs c£250k, e.g., identifying jobs that were initially considered revenue in nature but once works were completed ended up being capital related expenditure;

    ·       Para. 5.11 on capitalisation staff costs £254k, e.g., if hypothetically the capital programme did not exist then this team would not be required.

    ·       Para. 5.14 on central recharges £320k, e.g., a full and detailed review of shared costs has been undertaken this year resulting in a reduction in cost to the HRA;

    ·       Para. 5.17 on capital charges / net interest payable re reduction in capital spend, e.g. if we spend less on the capital programme then less of our capital financing reserves are used and thus earn interest instead; and

    ·        Para. 5.18 on depreciation charges vs VRP. E.g., the increase in depreciation charges is a combination of where external audit advised us last year to reduce our useful life from 100 to 70 years plus the increase in house prices inflating the value of our assets. We have proposed to offset this pressure in part against the voluntary repayment of debt (funding this from a different pot of money i.e. existing capital receipts) though this still leaves a pressure of c£400k.


    The Finance team appreciate that these are mainly technical financial adjustments or updated forecasts, but the ability to make any immediate savings on essential services is incredibly difficult. The service is working on some operational improvements such as progress towards a new material supply contract to deliver efficiency savings and an updated review of service charges to maximise income.  


    Comments from the committee as follows:-

    ·       The Chair congratulated the finance team on finding ways to reduce the pressure on the HRA and working hard to reduce the projected overspend.

    ·       The benefit of capitalising salaries means that the HRA can be given a breather during this period of heavy financial pressures. This has arisen due to the inflationary expenditure being experienced due to the Cost-of-Living crisis and the war in Ukraine. Income is not able to meet the expenditure within the ring-fenced HRA. This moves the money around, but may not be a permanent fix.

    ·       Cllr Lloyd asked what would happen if an overspend remained at the end of the financial year?  The deficit would be made up from the General Reserves which are in a healthy position. The SWT HRA would be combined with Homes Sedgemoor to become a new single HRA within the new council. The new combined business would have an operating turnover of approximately 47million and would hopefully have greater capacity and resilience.

    ·       Why have staff costs exceeded the budget? This was partly due to the estimated pay-rise which was set at 2%. The actual figure came  ...  view the full minutes text for item 60.


Executive Portfolio Holder Session - Cllr Francesca Smith pdf icon PDF 2 MB

    To consider updates from Executive Councillor for Housing: Councillor Francesca Smith.


    3.2 of the Scrutiny Terms of Reference state that the Scrutiny Committee may review and scrutinise and ask questions of the Leader, lead Councillors, the Executive in relation to their portfolios.


    Attached is Cllr Smith’s Full Council Portfolio Holder Report which was presented to Full Council on the 6 September. Following the publication of this Agenda the Report for December’s Ordinary Full Council will be published on the 29 November 2022 and can be accessed via that Agenda Pack.


    Additional documents:


    The Chair welcomed the Executive Councillor for Housing to Community Scrutiny Committee to answer updates on her portfolio. It was acknowledged that the meeting had fallen between two full council meetings and therefore there were two portfolio updates that had been published.


    Members asked questions on the following issues:-


    ·       There are now specific teams in place who deal with damp and mould in council housing. There is also a tenant group working specifically on this project. It is very important that concerns are reported as in most cases it gets worse due to being a hidden problem! Simon Lewis accepted that there will always be issues as 20% of the housing stock is of a traditional build and this is an inherent problem in older type housing. It has also been acknowledged that the current financial crisis will encourage tenants to use alternative forms of heating over the winter, which may lead to increased condensation and other associated problems.

    ·       Members can help with this by promoting how to report mould and damp and general housing repairs. This can all be done online via the housing repairs portal. More information can be found on the council’s website. This is also due to be updated with operating instructions on the different heating types within the SWT housing stock. This should help tenants to get the best use out of their heating systems.

    ·       It was asked whether there was still a delay on the delivery of the Disabled Facility Grants which were delivered via Somerset Independence Plus (SIP). Simon Lewis explained that a backlog had arisen due to pressures on the service due to: SIP were the nominated organisation who were responsible for inspecting the suitability of  sponsor, Homes for Ukraine properties. (This was obviously emergency work and took priority). Secondly, South Somerset had joined the partnership, which meant that any high-risk properties that were brought in from their housing stock, took priority over existing cases. Add to this the problems associated with gaining access to properties due to COVID-19, and then there was an inevitable backlog. The SIP team were now slowly catching up.

    ·       Financial support for hosts of Homes for Ukrainians has caused significant pressure on the private sector rented housing market. Sponsorship comes to an end after 12 months by which time, the hosted families need to find their own independent accommodation. This places additional challenges on an already limited supply of rented accommodation.

    ·       Cllr Habgood thanked Simon Lewis and his team for the work with Homes for Ukraine and asked how many families are being assisted? (Somerset is accommodating approximately 1200, with 400 being situated in the SWT area). Hubs have been set up across Somerset to provide support and assistance with such things as language classes and finding employment. Numbers are manageable at the moment but sponsorship money will eventually come to an end. This was priced at £1K per room to cover costs and a slight uplift has been added for take into account the cost of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 61.


Access to Information - Exclusion of the Press and Public

    During discussion of the following item it may be necessary to pass the following resolution to exclude the press and public having reflected on Article 13 13.02(e) (a presumption in favour of openness) of the Constitution. This decision may be required because consideration of this matter in public may disclose information falling within one of the descriptions of exempt information in Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972. Executive will need to decide whether, in all the circumstances of the case, the public interest in maintaining the exemption, outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.


    Recommend that under Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972 the public be excluded from the next item of business on the ground that it involves the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in paragraph 3 respectively of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act, namely information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information).


    Additional documents:


    The Committee voted to move into confidential session for the final item.


    Prop: Lloyd / Sec: Whetlor (Unanimous)


Confidential Item - Cultural Grant Provision